Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs: The Truth
We all know that dogs have a tendency to eat what they shouldn’t. Especially when they are puppies. Additionally, a dog’s sense of smell is excellent, which makes it fairly easy for them to find every single place you have hidden the chocolate. When you have chocolate in your home, this can actually be very dangerous.
Chocolate comes from the seeds of a plant called Theobroma cacao. This plant has certain properties that make it toxic for animals – theobromine and caffeine. If your dog ingests these two things, it can lead to medical complications and even death.
Types and Symptoms
Some of the symptoms of a dog having ingested chocolate are:
- Increased reflex responses
- Increased body temperature
- Rapid breathing
- Muscle rigidity
- Low blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- Advanced signs include coma, weakness, and cardiac failure
The type and amount of the chocolate that is ingested can also be important because they are what determines how severe the toxicity is. There are three types of chocolate that you need to know about:
- Milk chocolate. When a dog ingests 0.7 ounces for each pound of their body weight, they can exhibit signs of mild toxicity. For severe toxicity to occur, the dog must ingest 2 ounces of chocolate for each pound of their body weight. This can be as little as a pound of chocolate for a dog that weighs 20 pounds.
- Semi-sweet chocolate. When a dog ingests as little as 0.3 ounces of this for each pound of their body weight, they can exhibit signs of mild toxicity. If they ingest a single ounce of this, they can exhibit signs of severe toxicity. This can be only 6 ounces for a dog that weighs 20 pounds.
- Baking chocolate. This is the type of chocolate that has the highest amount of theobromine and caffeine. For that reason, as little as 2 ounces of this type of chocolate can be highly toxic for your dog if he weighs 20 pounds. This means that 0.1 ounce for each pound they weigh can be toxic.
The only cause of this type of poisoning is that the dog found chocolate and ate it. In the right amounts, this can be toxic for any type and size of dog. Be careful that you don’t feed him any type of chocolate or anything that has chocolate in it, and be sure that if you keep any in your home that it is out of the dog’s reach.
How it is Diagnosed
If your dog shows signs of chocolate toxicity, take him to the vet. The vet will do a complete physical on the dog, and this will include a urinalysis, an electrolyte panel, and a chemical blood profile. These three tests will assist in determining if there has been an overdose of chocolate and/or caffeine.
Other things that the vet might do include taking blood to check for concentrations of theobromine and an ECG to determine if the animal’s heart is displaying any signs of abnormalities in the rhythm or in the heart beats.
How it is Treated
While you need to get the animal to the vet as quickly as possible, you might also want to call him to find out if there is anything that you can do for the dog before you get there. Commonly, these things might include inducing vomiting and trying to control any possible seizures. You will also need to keep the animal in a place that is quiet, calm, and cool.
The vet will give the animal fluids to ensure that it remains hydrated while it recovers. If any further issues are to be avoided, the dog’s diet should be quite bland for the next few days.
An Ounce of Prevention…
It is critical that you keep anything containing chocolate out of the reach of your dog. Keep in mind that when it comes to dogs and chocolate toxicity, there is no cure.
A Few Questions about Chocolate and Dogs
You have probably heard, and you just read, that chocolate can actually kill a dog. Do you know the reason for this? Here are a few FAQs regarding dogs and chocolate.
Why is the chocolate poisonous?
Cocoa trees contain a couple of substances that are naturally occurring. They are caffeine and theobromine. Both of these things are toxic to canines. The cocoa beans themselves contain a higher concentration of theobromine than of caffeine.
Dogs tend to metabolize the theobromine incredibly slowly. In fact, it can remain in their bloodstream for as long as 20 hours. In the time that the substance is in the bloodstream, it can interfere with the functions of the body. It can affect the kidneys and heart while also stimulating the dog’s central nervous system.
What level of Theobromine can be Toxic?
A dose of both caffeine and theobromine for a dog falls between 100 and 200mg of the substance for each kg of the body weight of the dog. That being said, the animal can exhibit severe symptoms of being poisoned by theobromine at doses that are much lower. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center says that animals who have ingested only 20mg of these substances per kg of their weight can show signs of toxicity, and that with severe signs appearing at only 50mg per kg of their weight. Seizures can begin to occur at 60mg per kg of the body weight. The way in which your pet reacts to ingesting chocolate will vary depending on the size of the dog, his general health, the sensitivity he has to caffeine and theobromine, and the amount and type of chocolate he has ingested.
How Much Caffeine and Theobromine are in Chocolate?
The levels of caffeine and theobromine that are in chocolate will vary depending on the type of chocolate, as well as the brand, and the simple fact that the natural concentration of these things in the cocoa beans themselves can vary. However, in broad terms:
- White chocolate can contain 1.1mg of each for every ounce,
- Milk chocolate can contain 64mg of each per ounce
- Dark sweet chocolate can contain 150mg of each per ounce
- Instant cocoa powder can contain 151mg of each per ounce
- Unsweetened baking chocolate can contain 440mg of each per ounce, and
- Dry cocoa powder can contain as much as 808mg of each per ounce.
How Much Chocolate can a Dog Safely Eat?
Let’s take a look at a dog that weighs about 10 pounds compared to a dog that weighs 70 pounds. The following doses for these weights would be lethal:
For the 10-pound dog, approximately just a bit more than ½ an ounce of dry cocoa powder, a single ounce of unsweetened baking chocolate, 3 ounces of instant cocoa powder, or 7 ounces of milk chocolate.
For the larger dog, it would take 4 ounces of cocoa powder, 7 ounces of the baking chocolate, 1.3 pounds of the instant cocoa powder, or 3 pounds of the milk chocolate.
While these amounts are only approximate, they do show that dark chocolate is more lethal than milk chocolate and that large dogs are less at risk than smaller ones.
Dogs do get a bit of a taste for chocolate. The flavor of the theobromine can be addictive for them. Even if you have a dog that can tolerate smaller amounts of chocolate without showing any signs of ill effects, you shouldn’t give it to him because once you do, he will sniff it out whenever he can.
If you truly want your dog to have something akin to chocolate, you can always give him carob.
What are some of the Signs of Chocolate Poisoning?
If your dog ingests an amount of chocolate that can be toxic, symptoms will begin to appear within 4 – 24 hours. Early symptoms can include things like restlessness, increased urination, excessive thirst, diarrhea and vomiting.
As time passes, and more of the theobromine and caffeine is absorbed into his system, there can be symptoms like an elevated blood pressure, increased heart rate, hyperactivity, muscle twitching, and lack of coordination.
These symptoms can further worsen and lead to hyperthermia, heart arrythmia, coma, seizures, and even death. Even if the animal ingested only a small bit of chocolate, he might have diarrhea or vomiting because of the high sugar and fat content.
What to do if Your Dog has Eaten Chocolate
The first thing that you need to do if you think your dog has ingested chocolate is to call the vet. Describe to them the symptoms that your dog is showing as well as the kind and amount of the chocolate you think they ate. The dog will need to be treated by the vet, but they might advise you to make your dog throw up before you bring him in. That will serve to reduce the amount of toxins that the animal will absorb.
Most of the time, dogs tend to recover within 72 hours of being treated by the vet.
Dogs tend to beg for handouts, they hope that there will be a scrap or two for them to enjoy. However, when it comes to sharing your food with the animal, one thing that you must never give him is chocolate. This sweet treat, while not harmful to us, can be lethal for dogs. Veterinarians say that it is also one of the most common things that dogs are poisoned with.
If you think that your dog may have gotten ahold of chocolate, especially if it is one of the darker types, call your vet as soon as possible. The vet will ask you things like the type and amount of chocolate the critter ingested as well as the weight of the dog. They may tell you to induce vomiting or simply to watch how they are acting.
A single chocolate chip cookie can lead to issues with small dogs and a bag of chocolate chips can do so for larger dogs.
If the vet asks you to induce vomiting in the dog, the vet may advise you that this can be done by giving her hydrogen peroxide to drink. One tbsp for each 20 pounds should do the trick. You can use things like medicine droppers or turkey basters to give the dog the peroxide.
Sometimes pet owners will bribe the animal with peanut butter in their bowl and put the peroxide right around the rim of the bowl. This is because dogs tend to lick the bowls clean. After the dog has thrown up, do not give them any more water or food.
The chocolate’s stimulants can remain in the dog’s body for quite a while. With severe cases of chocolate poisoning, the symptoms can last for as much as 3 days. Getting the dog treatment as soon as possible can help the animal recover more quickly while also lowering the costs you will incur for it.
What the Vet Might Do
A vet will take the dog’s condition into consideration and then choose the appropriate treatment. The most typically seen method of treating chocolate poisoning is through the use of IV drugs and fluids. One thing they might use is a medication called apomorphine. This will induce vomiting. They might also pump the dog’s stomach in order to flush it with fluids. They may also give the dog some activated charcoal in order to keep the toxins from the chocolate from getting into the animal’s bloodstream.
Most dogs can survive if their owners act quickly. If you think your dog has ingested chocolate, you can also call the 24-hour poison hotline for the ASPCA. That number is 888-426-4435. It is critical to keep in mind that there is no amount of chocolate that is safe for a dog. Even a small amount can make the animal ill.
Dry cocoa powder, baking chocolate, and dark chocolates are more of a danger than things like milk or white chocolate. That being said, even a single ounce of the milk chocolate can be a deadly amount.
Cats don’t seem to have much of a sweet tooth, but a dog will eat nearly anything. Since they also don’t have the ability to tell when they are full, they will eat something until it is gone.
The bottom line is to keep the dog away from the chocolate and if they do ingest it, get them to the vet as soon as possible.
- YouTube, Is Chocolate Poisonous to Dogs?
- People, Just How Dangerous is Chocolate to Dogs?
- Hill’s Pet, Why Chocolate can be Poisonous for Your Dog
- VCA Hospitals, Chocolate Poisoning in Dogs